Moodle, the LRS? Getting Started With xAPI Learning Record Stores [UPDATED]

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Moodle, the LRS? Getting Started With xAPI Learning Record Stores
“Records” by Travis Wise is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Learning Record Stores (LRS) are the heart of the tracking process of learning using the xAPI standard. xAPI allows systems, including Moodle and compatible LMS, to develop guidance for learning content. Unlike SCORM, the de facto EdTech standard, it covers both content and performance, making it possible to compare learning outcomes.

LRS are a response to the need to place resulting xAPI-compliant data about student behavior in a central location. Since xAPI is platform agnostic, an LRS can be thought of independently from the LMS. Of course, for learning organizations with an overarching LMS solution, it makes sense to keep LRS and LMS together. Organizations using proprietary LMS, however, might want to take advantage of this independence and adopt an LRS as their private learning evidence (and know-how) repository. While this is not a problem with Moodle, as it was designed to protect data ownership, the concept of “LRS independence” helps define an organizational strategy about performance, behavior tracking, and evidence-based learning interventions.

LRS can work with both Open and proprietary LMS, or with no LMS at all. This opens up new ways of thinking about learning. Valuable experiences can happen outside the LMS. Video games, for example, are often associated with a broad set of skills, from motor development and visual contrast sensitivity, to attention and memory, or even to fighting depression. Connecting them to an LRS through xAPI would give weight to these claims to the point of considering video games as part of a learning plan. LRS could be helpful for Moodle and other LMS too, as they would provide comparable feedback about the tools and activities. In the example of video games, LRS could provide quantifiable insight about what makes a learning experience the most engaging.

A challenging aspect of setting up an LRS is the development of the xAPI layer, listing each “xAPI statement” about student behavior that an organization would like to track. xAPI lets researchers and managers develop statements as varied and detailed as they want, making it easy for a project to quickly grow in data volume and complexity, and at the risk of losing sight of the original goal. This potential toll, which appears to be the main reason for the low rates of xAPI adoption, can be avoided if the layer is built gradually. But the incipient stage and limited know-how about LRS, especially as compared to LMS and the EdTech marketplace whole, can render such incremental processes difficult, if not impossible today.

In any case, a complete solution would include these key elements:

  • A set of learning interventions or activities, which may or may not be bundled partially or completely into an LMS
  • A set of goals and learning outcomes associated with them, such as Competencies and Learning Plans provided by Moodle and other LMS
  • A layer of xAPI statements.
  • An LRS. Check out a list of providers here. You could also build your own LRS (if you have enough expertise, time and patience). An Open Source LRS available is Learning Locker.
  • A Learning Analytics System, Platform, or Dashboard. Most LMS, including Moodle, offer several Analytics solutions varying on width, depth, and price. Some LRS already feature them, and there are also external Analytics tools that plug to LRS via xAPI.
  • Finally, a xAPI bridge that turns behavioral outcomes from the learning intervention into LRS records using outcome (or Competency) benchmarks for the Analytics. Some LMS handle this internally, as Moodle does with the Logstore xAPI plugin (Moodle 2.8, 2.9, 3.0).

Make sure they all work with a compatible xAPI specification. The latest version is xAPI 1.0.3.

Read a “Choosing an LRS” guide by ADL, the US government agency who supports xAPI.

For more information, read eThink Education’s introduction, featuring three case studies and additional resources. (Note: eThink Education is a sponsor of MoodleNews.)


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